Tag Archives: Living in Brazil

Can you take it with you?


Prepared for anything: Type N (top) and Universal
Prepared for anything: Type N (top) and Universal

Moving somewhere—anywhere really, but especially a foreign country—forces you to think about what you really need, and I am not talking about my family and friends this time (although I need you too!). No. I’m talking about things. How can I maintain some level of comfort without trying to bring my whole country and way of life to Brazil? To start with, I’ve been trying to read about what adapters to buy and whether I need a converter. However, apparently every state in Brazil uses a different voltage and a different plug type. Supposedly, the country is trying to standardize to type N power sockets (which of course is only used in Brazil and South Africa, so universal adapters are of no use), but for now it’s a mixed bag. I think the voltage is the same as the US (127/220V), but if I’m wrong, I will find out immediately when I blow out my hair straightener…

The other main thing I’m worried about is water. I have heard it’s not the best idea to drink unfiltered Sao Paulo water, and I normally drink several liters of water a day when I have the time. I think a lot of places just have filters on the tap, but I can’t assume that that will be the case everywhere I stay, and I know I will be really unhappy if I can’t drink as much water as I want. Never having been there, I can’t decide if a Brita filter or water bottle would be worth it.

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O Brasil não é para principiantes

That “Brazil is not for beginners” is well known by gringos, brasileiros and the media alike (Seriously—just pick a language and google it). These immortal words, coined by “The Girl from Ipanema” composer, Tom Jobim, seem to be something of a point of pride among Brazilians and an obligatory post title for anyone in the blogosphere (and far be it for me to buck the trends—see below). The phrase seems to apply especially to business and government and more generally, to the extreme bureaucracy encountered when trying to get anything done in Brazil.

I don’t know which came first, jeitinho or the incredible amounts of red tape, but at this point they seem to go hand in hand. Jeitinho, the diminutive of “jeito” or “way,” refers to the manner in which Brazilians tend to find a “way” to get what they need, even though (or especially when) it involves circumventing the rules or the law. When I first heard “Brazil is not for beginners” spoken with pride by my Portuguese tutor, it seemed at odds with all the warm, extremely welcoming Brazilians I have been lucky enough to befriend over the past year or so (including my tutor). But the biggest component of jeitinho derives from this very factor; Brazilians will do anything to help out a friend or relative, from helping them cut in line to getting a job or a visa. And many times the only way to accomplish these goals in one lifetime is by employing jeitinho.

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